Time to take off for Nashville

I'm off for Nashville, where the weather is warmer than D.C., and the hot stove is certain to get toasty, as well.

I've been to the Winter Meetings the last three years, but this will be my first as a beat writer. I'm looking forward to countless baseless rumors, having my phone glued to my hand for four straight days and trying to navigate my way through the massive Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, where the meetings are being held.

Can you taste the sarcasm?

In all seriousness, I'm excited to be back at the hub of the baseball world and get a chance to monitor all the action that's sure to go down over the next few days.

The Winter Meetings don't actually begin until Monday morning, although there might be a little action which takes place later today, once team personnel and agents start to arrive.

My goal this week will be to try and sort through the hundreds of rumors and pick out the nuggets that are relevant and accurate. There will be lots of stuff flying around, and I'll do my best to hit at the angles that are actually pertinent to the Nationals' offseason pursuits.

The Nats have a number of areas they'll look to address down in Nashville, and while they won't fill all their needs this week, they'll have a good opportunity to talk shop with teams and agents, and at the very least, lay the groundwork for the rest of their offseason.

Here are the Nats' top priorities for the Winter Meetings:

1. Sort through the list of starters

The Nationals need a fifth starter to round out their rotation. That's even clearer now that John Lannan is out of the picture. With plenty of payroll flexibility, they can shoot for the stars and sign Zack Greinke, the top free agent starter on the market, or could decide someone like Anibal Sanchez or Dan Haren is more up their alley. They can also check with teams loaded with major league pitching talent (see: the Rays) and try and add a starter via a trade. The Nats have plenty of options when it comes to bolstering their starting pitching, and the Winter Meetings will give them a good chance to see which options best suit them.

2. Figure out the market for Michael Morse

It's very clear where the negotiations between Adam LaRoche and the Nats stand at this point. LaRoche wants a three-year deal, while the Nats are unwilling to give the 33-year-old a contract longer than two years. Before the Nats determine how deep to dig in their heels on this issue, they need to figure out how much they'd be able to get in return for Michael Morse. If Morse could help them replenish the minor league system with a strong prospect or two or give them quality major league talent in return, they could deal him and bring LaRoche back. If the market for Morse doesn't really develop into much, then the Nats could stick him at first base in 2013 and let LaRoche walk.

3. Get some left-handed relievers

Now that Tom Gorzelanny has been non-tendered, the Nationals don't have a single left-handed reliever under contract for the 2013 season. Not a one. That's an area that must be addressed in the coming weeks and months. Sean Burnett should end up getting some pretty lucrative offers from other teams, so the Nats will have plenty of competition there. GM Mike Rizzo will need to settle on a left-handed long-reliever (Gorzelanny is still an option, as is Zach Duke) and then sign at least one lefty for the later innings. Michael Gonzalez could return, but ideally, the Nats would find someone who, like Burnett, is effective against both left- and right-handed hitters.

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